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Forester News

President Schutt shares important campus initiatives

President Stephen D. Schutt sent an email to all students, faculty, and staff on June 16 updating details of important campus initiatives.

Here is the complete text of that email:

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Large protests have continued in Atlanta, Chicago, and across the country following the weekend killing of Rayshard Brooks by a police officer in Atlanta. This killing by police of yet another Black man has been ruled a homicide by a medical examiner, the police officer was fired, and criminal charges are pending.

The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others have shown a solid majority of Americans that police officers are significantly more likely to use excessive force against Black people than against White people. Moreover, the June 2, 2020 Monmouth University Poll that confirmed this majority also demonstrated that three-quarters of Americans now agree that “racial and ethnic discrimination is a big problem in the United States.”

To change this dire situation, we need to take action in numerous areas, both in our campus community and in the nation at large. With this in mind, I want to detail several important initiatives underway at the College.

Before doing so, however, let me momentarily pause to commend some good news in the midst of a time when too much news is bad. I applaud yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people. This landmark ruling definitively protects LGBTQ employment rights, and lawyers predict its welcome logic will extend to health care, housing, and education.

Returning to current initiatives at the College, I am pleased that four new faculty of color will join us this fall, bringing new ideas, perspectives, and diversity to our community. We need to make more progress, though, as the Board of Trustees recognized when it endorsed an initiative to recruit more faculty of color, in response to the November 2019 faculty letter. A significant measure of that progress is now occurring, as several generous trustees have joined my family in collectively pledging a total of $1 million to support two new tenure-track positions for faculty of color.  The funds will fully cover those positions for the next five years, while our development staff and I will work to raise a permanent endowment for them.  Dean Schneiderman, ARRC, and the Faculty Diversity Recruitment Subcommittee will soon make plans to design, craft and commence searches this fall for the two new positions.

The ongoing national events have caused many students to experience significant trauma. To assist students of color, in particular, our Health and Wellness Center has recruited Dr. Abena Berry to offer a virtual weekly drop-in group space for support this summer.  Dr. Berry served as a psychology intern last year, knows our campus well, and is eager to provide this help. Students who would like to join the space should call the counseling center at 847-735-5240.

Numerous College staff members are experiencing the same anxieties that students feel. To help staff gain time for therapeutic rest and reflection, the College is offering two paid days – which will not count against vacation or sick days – to staff who are working this summer. Part-time staff working this summer may apply for pro-rated time off based on their scheduled hours.  Staff presently on furlough may take their days or time off after returning to campus. These special days or time off must be taken by August 22, and the College intends this initiative to give staff beneficial personal time.  Supervisors should not expect staff to perform assignments or stay in contact during this special “unplugged” time.

To help faculty develop plans to integrate anti-racist curricula into current courses, the Office of Faculty Development will provide seed funding through its Course Development Stipend Program. As further support for such efforts, I urge everyone—faculty, students, and staff—to read the seminal book How to Be an Anti-Racist, by American University Professor Ibram X. Kendi. The College will provide reimbursement if you buy either a hardcover or Kindle version of the book, and the Intercultural Advisory Group (IAG), the Office of Faculty Development, and Student Affairs will organize group discussions at the beginning of the fall semester.

As a final matter, the issue of police discrimination against Black Americans will be addressed on two occasions over the next month. First, Cook County Commissioner William A. Lowry ’84, the Vice Chair of our Board of Trustees, will host a Zoom forum on police reform in mid-July. The date and time of the forum will be announced soon, and potential panelists include Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson ’81, and ACLU Illinois Executive Director Colleen K. Connell. Second, I am scheduled to meet soon with the Lake Forest City Manager and Police Chief to discuss student concerns regarding the Lake Forest Police Department.

To every member of our campus community who is working to implement these important initiatives and develop still others, you have my sincere thanks. In this very challenging time, your efforts are essential if we hope to make genuine progress.

Stephen D. Schutt
Lake Forest College